Alphabet NFL Preview: Week 13

645540.jpg

Alphabet NFL Preview: Week 13

After a Thanksgiving hiatus, the Alphabet Preview is back.

And here's your proof:

A is for ADDERALL AWARENESS
With rampant Adderall abuse continuing to wreak havoc on the fabric of the NFL, I feel its my occupational duty to start this weeks preview with a quick public service announcement. Sponsored by the NFLPA.

Five Signs That Your Favorite NFL Player Is On Adderall:

5. He becomes REALLY good at picking up the snap count.

4. He bails on a post-walkthrough team dinner, citing: Nah, Im good. I had a banana a few hours ago.

3. Every time the blow horn sounds at practice, hes overheard saying to a teammate, Hey man, lets sneak off for a cig real quick.

2. He sends the following tweet:
Any of y'all into those Game of Thrones books? Just read all five in one night! Your Fave (@YourFaveAthlete) November 30, 2012
1. Hes also on steroids.

B is for the BIG ONE

The Game of the Week (in the AFC, at least) takes place at 1 pm in Baltimore, where the Steelers and Ravens will square off for the second time in three weeks. And as was the case two Sundays ago, Ben Roethlisberger is the story.

Will he play?

According to the Pittsburgh-Gazette, probably not, but the Steelers are still leaving the door open for a return. And when you consider Big Bens flare for that type of dramatic . . . you never know.

Thats left John Harbaugh with the task of preparing Baltimore for the possibility of facing both quarterbacks.

When it comes to Roethlisberger, Im sure the coaching staff has stressed containment, and forcing him into situations where hell have to test that gimpy shoulder. For Batch, I assume theyre just having the team take turns tackling a potato sack filled discontinued Slinkies.

(By the way, with a win the Ravens will clinch their fifth straight trip to the playoffs their current four-year stretch is already a franchise record and with a win combined with a Bengals loss, Baltimore will clinch back-to-back AFC North titles for the first time in team history.)

UPDATE: ROETHLISBERGER IS OFFICIALLY OUT. POTATO SACK FULL OF SLINKIES IS IN.

C is for COUNTERPOINT

The Steelers offense may be a disaster (Note: The return of Antonio Brown will help on Sunday), but their defense is still ms stingy.

Theyre only allowing 19.1 points a game, which is tied for fourth best in the NFL. Theyre only allowing 257.2 total yards a game, which ranks first (and is 32 yards fewer than the Patriots allow through the air, alone). According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Steelers have now held opponents under 300 total yards in six straight games, which is the NFLs longest such streak in two years.

On the other side of the ball, the Ravens offense is far from perfect, but theyre still pretty good. Especially at home, where theyre 5-0 on the season and most recently dropped a Dikembe Mutombo (55 points) on the Raiders.

D is for "DANGER!" - MYSTIKAL
We dont hear much about the 49ers around here, but have you been following whats going on with Aldon Smith?

The second-year linebacker has nine sacks in November, which gives 16.5 on the year, and puts him on pace to break Michael Strahans single-season sack record (See, who needs Brett Favre?). Those 16.5 sacks, combined with the 14 he picked up as a rookie, also leave him only one sack shy of breaking Reggie Whites record for most sacks by a player in his first two seasons.

Hes an absolute monster, and on Sunday hell face off against a Rams offense line thats given up the eighth most sacks in the NFL.

In related news, Ill be holding preemptive candlelight vigil for Sam Bradford this Saturday and Sunday morning at Faneuil Hall. Everyones welcome. (But please bring your own candle . . . and one for me.)

E is for EMPTY

Late-season games very sad teams = BLACKOUT PARTY.

And that will be the case on Sunday, as the broadcasts of Jacksonville at Buffalo, Cleveland at Oakland and Cincinnati at San Diego will all be blacked out in the local market.

You cant blame the fans in Buffalo, Oakland and San Diego for wanting absolutely nothing to do with these three games. In each case, their home team is pathetic, and the visiting team couldnt be any less appealing. Plus, with the RedZone you can still see enough of the game to keep you happy. At the very least, youll catch every score.

Then again, it wont be long before Roger Goodell finds a way to localize the RedZone coverage and keep blacked out footage off the airwaves. Just as soon as hes done cloning that Scott Hanson embryo.

F is for FIREMAN ED
Im still not sure how I feel about the Fireman Ed fiasco, but I think it falls somewhere between insanely depressed and completely entertained on the range of human emotions.

But I do know that he's closest thing that real life has ever had to Randy Quaid's character in Major League 2.

Bottom line: He'll be back.

G is for GREAT DEPRESSION
Heres one more thing to validate the Raiders fans for not showing up to Sundays game against the Browns: With last weeks loss to the Bengals (also Oaklands fourth loss in a row) the Raiders officially clinched their 10th consecutive season without a winning record. Thats the longest active streak in the league (Buffalos at nine).

Pretty tough stretch, eh? And what a depressing turn of events for the fan base. Back in 2001, they had a great team. A certified contender. They celebrated like hell when Charles Woodson sacked Tom Brady in the snow, only to fall victim to one of the most controversial calls in NFL history. Correct, but still controversial. A monumental blow to any fan base. They lose Gruden the next but STILL win the AFC . . . before getting undressed and spanked in the Super Bowl by Grudens Buccaneers.

And thats where it ends. Forget the playoffs, they havent finished with more than eight wins in a season since. In those 10 years, theyve also employed seven different head coaches, and at this point it looks like that number will have to grow to at least eight before the Raiders turn this thing around.

Quick question: With all that losing, do you think that Richard Seymour misses New England? And I dont mean that sarcastically. If given another chance, do you think that Seymour would swallow his pride and accept whatever the Pats were offering, or stand by his guns and re-live his time in Oakland? Personally, I dont think hed change a thing.

H is for HAIL TO THE CHIEFS

Keeping with the blackout theme for one last second: Respect to Chiefs fans for keeping Kansas City off that list.

With last weeks loss to the Broncos, the Chiefs are now 0-6 this year at Arrowhead Stadium. And this Sunday against the Panthers, KCs at risk of matching a franchise record with their ninth loss in a row. It's also one thing if this was just one season going down the tubes in Kansas City, but these fans are witnessing the death of a regime. All the optimism that came with Scott Pioli's arrival is dead and buried. They're getting ready to start from scratch.

But they still sold enough tickets in KC to keep the Chiefs on TV. And in turn, maintain their standing as a real NFL franchise. Let's hope that Cam Newton's a nice guy and treats everyone to a show.

I is for INTRODUCTION
Hello, Green Bay:

My name is Greg, and you may recognize me from my extensive catalog of television endorsement deals. Did you see the one where I did the Lambeau Leap and then celebrated with a bunch of actors that were pretending to be you guys? Pretty sweet, right?

Well, this week I figured I'd try out the real thing. I'll see you at the stadium, and I looking forward to meeting you all.

Love, 85

J is for JEKYL AND HYDE

We're all familiar with the Seahawks' insane homefield advantage. It's not a major shock that they're a perfect 5-0 at CenturyLink Field this season, and (as the AP noted this week) an impressive 56-29 in Seattle since opening a new stadium in 2002.

But Pete Carroll's boys probably don't get enough attention for how absolutely miserable they are on the road. Since 2002, the Seahawks are 31-55 away from their new stadium. This season, they're 1-5 on the road, and with the NFC playoff race heating up, Seattle desperately needs to pick up a road win on Sunday.

Unfortunately, they're in Chicago. And their top two corner backs are on the verge of being suspended for four games. And Pete Carroll can't wipe the smile off his face.

K is for KICKED TO THE CURB

The season's been unraveling fast in Tennessee, and terror picked up steam this week when the Titans fired offensive coordinator, Chris Palmer.

You have to wonder how losing his offensive coordinator will affect the development of Jake Locker. Also, it might affect Chris Johnson race to become the NFL's all-time leader in irrelevant 100-yard games.

On the bright side, they promoted a guy named Dowell Loggains to the position of offensive coordinator.

I've got a good feeling about 'ol Dowell Loggains.

But he's got a tough debut match-up against the Texans sixth ranked defense.

L is for LATE TO THE PARTY

Good news, Bills fans. The Mario Williams of your hopes and dreams has finally arrived. In his last four games alone, Williams has four sacks and now leads the team with 8.5.

Bad news, Bills fans. The season's already over, thanks in large part to the fact that Mario didn't show up until Week 6.

This Sunday, Williams should continue to pad his stats against a Jaguars line that's allowed more sacks this season than all but three teams. Sadly, no one in Buffalo will be at the game, and even fewer can watch it on TV.
"Late to the Party" Honorable Mentions: Pierre Garcon and DeMarco Murray. Welcome back, guys!

M is for MONEY MAKER
Robert Griffin III's world-wide takeover kicked up another notch this week, when it was announce that he now has the league's No. 1 selling jersey. (Peyton Manning is second, Aaron Rodgers is third and, for the eighth straight season, Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt is dead last).

The other big story is that last year's No. 1 seller, Tim Tebow, dropped to eighth. On one hand, you can look at that and say: "Wow. Tebow's really dropped in popularity." On the other, "Wow. This guy's spent the entire season in punt coverage, yet is still the league's eighth most popular jersey."

As for RGIII, he'll take the field on Monday against the NFL's fourth best-selling jersey, in a game that I'll discuss more right now.

N is for NFC EAST OVERLOAD

It's been a tough season for prime time NFL football.

First of all, the Thursday night schedule has been torture. And as of late, Monday night hasn't been much better. The last three Mondays have brought us an irrelevant PhillyCarolina game, the San FranciscoChicago blow out between two back up QBs, and a 16-13 overtime thriller between the Steelers and Chiefs. Honestly, it been tough to watch. (But I still watched it all. Damn you, Goodell.)

Anyway, with the ways it's been this year, it's only fitting that the NFL's Week 13 prime time schedule is comprised of two games from the league's most disappointing and dysfunctional division:

Sunday night: Philly at Dallas; Monday night: NY Giants at Washington.

Yikes. The Giants are the only team that still has something to play for. That's certainly not what the league was hoping for when they set this up last spring. But at the same time, I guess it still makes for some pretty good TV.

Sunday will be liking watching a slow motion bridge collapse, with Andy Reid standing at the very top, screaming and pounding his chest like King Kong.

The next night, RGIII's world-wide takeover makes its Monday Night Football debut.

O is for ONE MAN ON ONE MONSTER

Thanks to one of the most the ridiculous rules in professional sports (and a year's worth of underachieving play), the Lions' season is just about over. Through 11 games, they sit at 4-7 and will have to win out (plus have the rest of the NFC fall victim to a Motaba outbreak) to have any chance to make it back to the playoffs.

On the other hand, the Colts are still very much alive. Right now, they're in a three-race (with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati) for the two AFC wild cards. They also have a game up on the competition and relatively favorable schedule down the stretch (that includes a Week 17 game against the Texans, who at that point will have all their starters sitting and Wade Philips playing linebacker).

But if there's one reason to be skeptical about the Colts playoff chances, it's most definitely this: They're tempting Megatron.

Earlier this week, Bruce Arians told the media that Indy's going to play it straight against Charles Johnson on Sunday. No help. They're just going to do their thing, and hope they don't get burned. (Part of "their thing" includes leaving Megatron in one on one coverage against Darius Butler)

R.I.P Colts secondary

P is for PLAYING WITH FIRE

We're all very aware that the NFL is a nasty business. We know about the dangers and the hypocrisies involved with the entire operation. Where do you stand on this one?

A few weeks ago, new Browns CEO Joe Banner called out Brandon Weeden. More specifically, he pretty much told reporters that the last seven games would determine Weeden's future.

"It's right to put Brandon on the list of important things we have to figure out and we have seven games left to do that," he told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "It's an extremely important question for this organization to get right."

So, basically: If he doesn't blow us away, he's gone.

Two weeks later, Weeden and the Browns are on the verge of pulling off an upset at home against the Steelers . . . when Weeden goes down with a concussion. He leaves the game and goes into the locker room. A few minutes later, he starts feeling better and wants to get back into the game. Of course he does. His career's on the line. So the question is: If the team can determine that he's not in any immediate danger, shouldn't he be allowed to go back in?

Either way, Weeden will be back on the field this Sunday in Oakland. And hopefully the Raiders 24th ranked pass defense can give him a little boost.

Q is for QB CONTROVERSY

For the most part, I've been impressed with Jim Harbaugh's handling of the San Francisco QB Controversy. He's been pretty honest and straightforward, and has certainly done his best to be respectful and loyal to both guys.

Personally, I like the decision to go with Colin Kaepernik. There's just something about him. He exudes a lot of confidence. And when you consider his unique style combined with the fact that the rest of the league is still very unfamiliar with how to stop him, there's a real chance for him to do some damage this season.

The worst case scenario is still a pretty damn good scenario with Smith ready to step in.

R is for REFRESHING

Life is not fun for the Cardinals. Since their surprising 4-0 start, Arizona has lost seven straight games, are on their third starting quarterback and not-so-coincidentally have the league's 31st ranked offense.

But despite all the hardship, you know it will still feel good when they can look across the field on Sunday and think: "Man, at least we're not the Jets."

S is for SAVIOR

Jaguars Nation . . . CAN YOU HEAR ME?!

It's been a long time coming, but your savior has arrived!

And just as the Mayans predicted, he's come in the form of Chad Henne.

In his two games since taking over for Blaine Gabbert, Henne thrown for 615 yards, six touchdowns and only two interceptions. He almost led them to a historic upset in Houston. Brought them back into the win column last week against Tennessee. And on Sunday, he'll take on a Buffalo defense that allows 29 points a game.

All hail, Chad Henne!

It's been so long, but you were definitely worth the wait.

T is for TIE-BREAKER

The Rams and Niners face off on Sunday in a rematch of the NFL's only tie of the season.

Here's an idea: Why not make it a continuation? Give it each team three more chances to score. I know it's unconventional, but isn't it worth it for the chance to avoid spending the rest of our lives being haunted the crookedness of the 2012 NFC West standings?

This just seems like an easy fix.

U is for UPSET SPECIAL

I'm now 3-4 on my Upset Specials this season. So I'll understand if you don't take this week's pick to the bank with the same passion that you always do. But here it is:

Titans over Texans.

One reason: Things are getting real in Tennessee. People are getting fired. Careers are on the line. On the surface, they don't have anything to play for. But with the way things are going, everyone's is playing for everything.

Another reason: The Texans just look ripe for a loss. They haven't been the same team since beating the Bears in Week 10. The injuries are also starting to sneak up on them a little. At the end of the day, they're obviously still a major threat to come out of the AFC, but on Sunday . . .

Final Score: Titans 29, Texans 25
V is for VIAGRA

Amidst all the Adderall talk this week, Brandon Marshall dropped a blue, triangular bomb on the league when he told reporters he's heard stories of players popping Viagra to help get themselves hyped before a game.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed that Viagra isn't a banned substance, but declined further comment. Except to say: "I guess that's fine. As long as they're sure to call a doctor if the desire to tackle someone doesn't fade after four hours."

(I'm sorry.)

W is for WAKE UP CALL

Adrian Peterson missed the Vikings team bus before last Sunday's embarrassing loss to the Bears. And this week, Peterson cleared up a bit of the controversy by admitting that he just simply overslept.

First of all, someone needs to get AP a prescription for Adderall. Second, at this point, Peterson should be able to do whatever he wants. Let him spend the weekdays on vacation in Hawaii. As long as he keeps showing and doing Adrian Peterson kind of things which this year, includes leading the league in rushing despite being less than a year removed from ACL surgery and dominating every Sunday despite the fact that he's almost literally Minnesota's only offensive weapon he deserves the extra sleep.

The Vikings visit Green Bay on Sunday. And while their season isn't officially on the line, it sure feels like a make-or-break opportunity for Minnesota.

X is for EXCUSES
Yeah, I know. It's not a real X. But you try coming up with one of those every week.

Y is for YOU KNOW WHAT?
I almost forgot about BroncosBuccaneers. This might be the most exciting game on this week's schedule. (Note: I have Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson on my fantasy team, so there's a good chance I'm overestimating Tampa's overall appeal.)

With a win, the Broncos will re-enforce their title as the most increasingly terrifying team in the AFC. With a win, Tampa will establish themselves as a serious playoff threat. With a loss, they probably start looking at next year?

I'd like to see the Buccaneers pull this one out, but my gut's telling me differently.

The Broncos have a Top 10 rush defense, which could be bad news for Doug Martin. And if Champ Bailey can shut down Vincent Jackson (while remembering that Bailey can still shut down anyone) it's bad news for everyone.

Especially my fantasy team.

Z is for ZOETIC

Definition: Of or relating to life; alive.

Sentence 1: Believe it or not, the Bengals playoff chances are still zoetic. After mid-season, four-game losing streak, they bounced back to win three straight and, at 6-5, are back in the heart of the playoff race. Over the last three games, Andy Dalton has been a ginger beast, throwing nine touchdowns and no interceptions. And he should be able to build on that success against a Chargers team that is long past giving up.

Sentence 2: Believe or not, Norv Turner is still zoetic. No seriously. I know how it looks, but I swear he's still alive.

And on that note, that's all for this week.

Enjoy the games.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Report: NFL paid Goodell over $31 million in 2015

roger-goodell-thumbs-up.jpg

Report: NFL paid Goodell over $31 million in 2015

Roger Goodell's salary has reportedly fallen in recent years, but he's still paid handsomely for his work as NFL commissioner.

According to the Associated Press, Goodell earned just over $31 million for 2015. That's a seven percent decrease from the $34 million he received for 2014. 

The NFL's last tax return served as an indicator of Goodell's 2015 salary. The league's tax returns no longer have to be made public since it has changed its status from exempt to taxable, per the AP.

The next-highest paid executive at the NFL offices on Park Avenue? General counsel Jeff Pash, one of the most prominent players in the Deflategate sage, who earned $6.5 million in 2015, down from $7.5 million in 2014. 

Richardson suspended one game for violating personal conduct policy

sheldon-richardson.jpg

Richardson suspended one game for violating personal conduct policy

The NFL announced this week that Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson has been suspended without pay for Week 1 of the 2016 regular season for violating the league's personal conduct policy. 

Richardson will miss his team's season-opener against the Bengals and will be eligible to return to the Jets active roster on Sep. 12. The Jets and the Patriots meet for the first of their two division games on Nov. 27. 

Richardson responded to the news of suspension on Thursday. 

In July of 2015, Richardson led police on a high-speed chase -- hitting speeds as high as 143 miles per hour -- in suburban St. Louis. Police reported a strong odor of marijuana in the car and inside found a loaded, semiautomatic handgun that was possessed legally. Richardson had a 12-year-old relative riding with him in his Bentley at the time of the incident.

In January, Richardson pleaded guilty to resisting arrest. Though he avoided jail time, he was sentenced to two years probation and 100 hours of community service. 

Richardson has been one of the league's best defensive linemen since entering the league as a first-rounder in 2013. He served a four-game suspension to start last season after violating the league's substance abuse policy.

PFF: Collins is 'the best linebacker in the AFC'

collins-gallery_0.jpg

PFF: Collins is 'the best linebacker in the AFC'

He may have been left off of the NFL Network's Top 100 list, but Jamie Collins isn't flying under the radar at Pro Football Focus.

On PFF's list of the top 10 defensive players in the AFC, the Patriots linebacker came in at No. 8 and was given the description as the top linebacker in the conference.

Collins' versatility within the confines of the Patriots defense is what makes him so valuable, PFF's John Kosko explains: 

"He doesn’t dominate in any one role like Luke Kuechly does in pass coverage and run defense, but he is very good at all facets of the game. Collins has the athleticism to cover TEs and HBs effectively, the explosiveness to rush the passer, and the size and strength to defend the run. 

"The former Southern Mississippi linebacker is arguably the most versatile player in the NFL, and allows Bill Belichick to employ a defense that confuses opposing quarterbacks. With the only knock against Collins being his 34 missed tackles the past two seasons, the Patriot is the best linebacker in the AFC."

Collins graded out as the No. 5 linebacker in football last year, per PFF's numbers. He ranked behind only Carolina's Luke Kuechly, Minnesota's Anthony Barr, Indianapolis' Jerrell Freeman and Seattle's KJ Wright. 

Fellow Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower earned the 10th-highest grade for linebackers last season, according to PFF -- a grade that likely would have been higher had his snap-count (602 in 2015) approached that of Collins (792).

While Collins is a rare physical talent, the argument could be made that it's Hightower who is the more important player to the Patriots defense given his prowess as a pass-rusher and run-defender. He also has myriad responsibilities as the extension of the team's coaching staff in the defensive huddle. 

In order to slow down opposing passing games, many Patriots defensive packages employ either five or six defensive backs and just two linebackers. Lucky for them, they have two of the best in the conference.

Both Collins and Hightower are entering contract years this year, and finding a way to keep them in-house figures to be near the top of the list of priorities for the Patriots front office.